img_2218-copy Story & Photos by Kelsey Par Huddled in a cramped Highline High School classroom learning computer coding was probably the last place you’d expect to find a big, tough, Denver Bronco offensive tackle, but there he was, Russell Okung, picking up computer programming tips. Score one for the geeks. The former Seattle Seahawk grew up in a rough part of Houston and was never particularly talented when it came to education, but the one thing he did learn was that he should never stop trying to learn. He had the size and athleticism to lift himself out of poverty. Now he’s trying to assure that kids with fewer advantages but more brain power, have a pathway to success. Last Friday (Nov. 18), Okung was joined by the founder of Code.org, Hadi Partovi, where they worked side by side with students for an hour of coding while sharing their experiences and passion for education. Both Okung and Partovi said they came from backgrounds that lacked in opportunity and resources. “Imagine you’re in this neighborhood, you come from a single-parent family and everything around you is chaos. Imagine you’re stuck there, that you can’t muster up enough will or determination to get out of there,” Okung said. This drove Okung’s devotion to make technology available to as many people as possible, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. Okung and Greater’s co-founder Andrew McGee, met at Oklahoma State University where they bonded over football and their dedication for education. Together they realized the need for technology and used their willpower and background to birth the Greater Foundation. Greater and its many partner organizations bring STEM education to schools from Stillwater to Seattle to bridge the gap in the underrepresented in the tech industry and break the cycle of at-risk youth. “There are over 20,000 open jobs in computer science in Washington state and approximately 1,000 students are studying it,” Partovi said. Greater aims to redefine what education really is and help provide students with an education worthy of the 21st century. Although Okung was able to rise from poverty and succeed, he said he remembers what it felt like to be trapped in a town with little opportunity. “I always played video games, but my mom made me get out and play football. I wasn’t good at school. Football was my only option and I knew it was the only way I could get out that town and be better,” he said. At the time, Okung’s enthusiasm for technology was denied by the lack of resources to pursue it further. “I think that’s completely unfair, I don’t think anybody in America should fall victim to that line [not having the resources]. So again, imagine that chaos, and imagine the solution,” Okung said. He said with the access to education, we can foster change and with the skillset you learn from studying technology, you can go into any field. Click images to see larger versions/slideshow: img_2120-copy img_2140-copy img_2170-copy img_2179-copy img_2182-copy img_2227-copy]]>